There’s nothing new – or even remotely interesting – about the concept of social recruiting, yet for some reason that doesn’t seem to stop this industry from discussing and dissecting this passe, seemingly passing fad incessantly. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve been talking about social recruiting since 2007 – if not even earlier. If only MySpace or Google Wave had the same sort of sticking power.
The innovators, influencers and instigators in our industry largely continue to sell recruiters on social, despite a pretty broad body of evidence that shows that it’s less effective as a source of hire than, say, a career fair or display advertising.
But that doesn’t stop the cottage industry dedicated to social recruiting from trying to stay relevant enough to keep milking this cash cow for all it’s worth.
Of course, to provide fodder to try to keep this stale topic fresh, we constantly create content and presentations which continually perpetuate this asinine conversation. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about: “top innovators to follow,” “biggest mistakes to avoid in social recruiting,” “10 Key Tips for Social Recruiting Success.” These cliche riddled check-lists are about as creative as most job descriptions, and just as compelling, too. Snooze. Alarm.
The topic of social recruiting, however, goes deeper than the seemingly simple definitions applied to this amorphous and ambiguous business construct.
Why Social Recruiting Is A Waste Of Time
Google will tell you social recruiting is defined as “recruiting candidates by using social platforms as talent databases or for advertising. Popular social media sites used for recruiting include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Viadeo, XING, Google+ and BranchOut.”
Well, if BranchOut represents a popular social recruiting site, than that’s probably a bad bellwether, considering how viable that turkey turned out to be (joining XING and Google+ in the dustbin of social media history).
But using the definition provided by Google – which is where most people trying to figure social recruiting out likely start, you can see that in short, social recruiting requires sticking up a bunch of career pages and employer brand based groups across all of these networks, planting a flag on any platform that supports posting and sharing content.
Every HR event, conference or webinar these days has some speaker telling you that you’re screwing your ability to attract top talent if you don’t have dedicated careers pages on social media; I’m sure you’ve heard from many marketing “gurus” and “social media experts” (hint: such a thing does not in fact exist) selling you their social snake oil. They make it sound so simple; all any employer has to do is build a branded page, throw up a few jobs and maybe a generic careers video or some employee pictures and boom and the candidates will come.
You’ve got a careers Twitter account, a jobs widget on Facebook and an RSS feed hooked up to your LinkedIn page? Boom! You’re officially a social recruiter, my friend. Throw in a cutesy picture of a company birthday celebration or bowling outing or some crappy copy about your mission, vision and values, and you’re almost ready to keynote one of these specious sessions on your own, since you’re a rockstar ninja guru or some shit like that.
But hold on a minute. If social media is really about relationships, and recruiting is all about hiring, how, exactly, is posting a bunch of feeds with nothing more than a job title, location and link in any way constitute “social recruiting?” This approach fails at building relationships, and is even less successful at attracting candidates and clicks. It’s understandable that open jobs would be the primary currency of social recruiting content, considering that these are your candidate calls to action and your raison d’etre for adopting social in the first place.
But it’s damn near impossible for social to actually facilitate any real recruiting outcomes or help with hiring when it’s so forced, mechanical and not nearly as interesting as almost all the other content on your average social site. Buzzfeed article, cute cat video or job description: which would you be the most likely to ignore? Your candidates feel the same way. I don’t know about you, but I’m on Facebook to see what my friends are up to and maybe find a few interesting or funny articles worth reading, not finding a job worth applying to.
Honestly, I think I speak for most candidates when I say that before I started working in this industry, it never even occurred to me to think about looking for a job on Facebook, much less finding or engaging a career specific social media page, unless I happened to come across it while researching roles at a company or I’m doing due diligence for a social media job. Other than that, I’ve got about as much use for these as that “poke” feature on Facebook. No one knows what the point of that is, either, but that doesn’t stop people from using it – similar, of course, to social recruiting.
This represents the fundamental problem right there – we create career pages and content and assume candidates will find it compelling enough (read: give two shits) to actually apply for one of those jobs you keep posting. You’d think the numbers would work out in favor of this at least having some efficacy. There are half a billion people on Facebook and 974 million active Twitter accounts, but what percentage of those people apply to your jobs? Let’s just say the odds are pretty piss poor.
When A Tweet Falls In A Forest…
So how are recruiters like you supposed to attract and engage candidates on social when there’s a .000000001% chance (and I’m being liberal with that estimate) that they’re actually going to reach the right person and convert that passive candidate into an active applicant.
I’m confident that the statistical likelihood that any “A” players or perfect candidates are fans of your Facebook careers page or follow your dedicated jobs related Twitter handle are even smaller.
Even if you’ve built yourself a pretty big ‘talent community’ (which these days is more or less a pay-for-play proposition), it’s unlikely that you’d consider anyone actively looking for a job there for an actual job at your company. After all, you continue ignoring these “active” candidates who are already applying for jobs at your company; who needs another platform to brush off an unqualified candidate? That’s what ATS systems are for.
As a marketing professional, social recruiting represents a bit of a conundrum to me. Now, in theory, sure, every brand (employer, consumer or otherwise) should at least have a presence on social, or at least that’s what I learned from the “experts” and “thought leaders” at all those fancy social business conferences I’ve attended over the years. But to me, having social accounts simply so that you have social accounts seems kind of like the digital version of a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. You’re investing time, but are candidates? And if candidates couldn’t care less about your social presence and continue ignoring your career pages, is it even worth it to keep dedicating resources to this dud?
I think not. I know I’m flying in the face of conventional wisdom and “branding best practices” (whatever the hell those are) on this one, but I really don’t think that recruiting and sourcing teams should have career or employer-brand specific social profiles and pages, particularly for those companies who are just now getting around to launching their social recruiting initiatives and are starting from square one with zero followers or fans.
If you survived this long without social recruiting, I promise you’ll still be OK, even if you’re one of the few remaining holdouts out there. Trust me, you’ll have the last laugh.
Follow me on this one.
How Glassdoor Finally Made Social Recruiting Make Sense
Last week, I started considering the idea of whether or not it makes sense for companies to have career-focused social profiles and pages thanks to an announcement from Glassdoor unveiling the launch of their latest product, Company Updates. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this feature basically is just what you’d expect from a product called Company Updates, allowing employers managing their Glassdoor pages to post status updates directly on their Glassdoor profile to add dynamic and deeper branding elements and real time responses to augment the static reviews, salary ranges and job descriptions already out there.
With 46% of candidates reporting in a recent survey that they were using a review site like Glassdoor to get the inside scoop before even applying for a job, I think that Glassdoor just might have uncovered the real way we should be defining social recruiting and assessing our social strategies for attracting and engaging potential candidates online.
In short, the integration of a status bar that’s seamlessly embedded directly into an employer’s Glassdoor profile is social recruiting that’s actually, truly social, since it allows employers to communicate with candidates without having to dedicate the time and effort to build up fans and followers on Facebook or Twitter. Plus, this functionality actually lets companies start a conversation in a place where actual candidates actually go during their job search. That metaphorical tree in the forest just got a little louder, y’all.
This potential game changer from Glassdoor seems, to this marketing professional at least, to make perfect sense – I mean, it only reasons that you’re better served posting status updates and content on places where candidates actually go instead of on some social network that forces you to pay to build an unqualified, untalented “talent community.”
The point of social recruiting is attracting those real, live people who could maybe be viable fits for your open roles and merit some sort of consideration or maybe even the occasional interview or offer. I know, sounds crazy, but these candidates aren’t spending their time trolling Twitter or scrolling through their Facebook news feed – and if they find your social careers page, they’re likely to ignore it. Of course, these candidates are most likely already on Glassdoor, and there’s some overwhelming evidence that’s one site with information and content compelling enough to capture their attention – and inform their decision on whether or not to actually apply to your company.
Candidates love leveraging Glassdoor because it’s a system of record that’s an open forum providing real feedback from real employees at real companies talking about their real career experiences and what it’s really like to work there. This is the stuff candidates connect to and care about, not some automated jobs feed that automatically posts openings to Twitter. Plus, the most serious candidates won’t connect with you on social anyway, since doing so opens the door to you having ammunition to use their personal information found on those sites against them.
Candidates are scared of what HR and recruiting might find on social, and few will actually proactively go out of their way to provide this sort of potentially self-incriminating information voluntarily. You’d have to be an idiot, right?
But What About Personal Branding?
I realize that this opens another can of worms as it relates to the whole concept of “personal branding” for recruiters. If their organizations choose not to pursue an active employer brand strategy, isn’t it incumbent on recruiters to build out their own social profile and presence?
Well, I have to admit, I throw up a little in my mouth when I hear the phrase “personal branding,” since it’s one of the douchier concepts in a space full of douche bags, and my answer here, again, is an emphatic no.
The only exception would be for those recruiters subject matter expertise and experience actually doing the job they’re recruiting for, and will use social to legitimately connect with candidates and communicate candidly about the work they do and the employer they do it for.
But if you’re just another recruiter out there tweeting and posting just because it’s there, trust me: there are enough of those as it is, and being a subject matter expert in recruiting is a piss poor way to actually build a recruiting relationship. Plus, my guess is, you’re probably too busy to actually make this pay off enough to realize any modicum of recruiting ROI.
Do you realize how much sweat equity it takes to build up your personal brand to the point where it actually attracts people to you? I imagine the answer is a shit load, considering I’ve been doing this social media stuff for going on 7 years now, and it’s only been in the last year or so that people have proactively reached out to me (and I mostly blame that on Charney). Now, if you’re responsible for actively sourcing, recruiting and hiring people every day, there’s no way investing in building a personal brand is going to be worth the effort. You just don’t have the time – trust me, I sure as hell don’t and I’m a social media professional, for crying out loud.
How To Really Make Recruiting Social
So what does all this mean for HR vendors selling social recruiting solutions and the HR practitioners leveraging these tools and technologies as an integral part of their recruiting strategies?
Here’s an idea: maybe you should finally seek out ways to change the infrastructure of how you hire and start actually calling candidates and having personalized, individual interactions and 1:1 communications with the ones who you might actually hire someday?
This is where you should be focusing your engagement, not adding social media channels that make no sense other than maybe making you look kind of cool (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).
Instead of “joining the conversation” and adding some “share this” buttons to every damn job posting, how about starting a conversation and sharing those jobs with those applicants who are sitting in your ATS wondering why in the hell they never get a call back – if you have the time to build a careers related Facebook page or Twitter handle, you sure as hell have the time to start creating ways for candidates to talk to recruiters live – online or otherwise.
For example, let’s say I just applied to a job. I want this job, so there’s no way I’m going to use those sharing buttons and let my whole network in on the chance to beat me out for this thing. I also am currently employed, so I’m not going to broadcast that I’m looking in the most visible way possible – I know enough to know to keep this all on the DL. So why not remove those social integrations and sharing functionalities entirely and replace them with live chat capabilities or a call to action to set up a time to have a 1:1 conversation with someone who’s actually in HR and recruiting at your company?
Even if that’s a lower level associate, intern or even an office manager, they can probably answer most questions about what it’s like to work at a company and what to expect from the hiring process – which is WAY more social than, say, a row of buttons prompting them to tell the entire world that they’re looking for a new job. You want to make recruiting social, start by actually talking to top talent, first – I promise you’ll find it pays greater dividends than spending your time slaving away on Facebook, anyway.
About the Author: Katrina Kibben is the Director of Marketing for Recruiting Daily, and has served in marketing leadership roles at companies such as Monster Worldwide and Care.com, where she has helped both established and emerging brands develop and deliver world-class content and social media marketing, lead generation and development, marketing automation and online advertising.
An expert in marketing analytics and automation, Kibben is an accomplished writer and speaker whose work has been featured on sites like Monster.com, Brazen Careerist and About.com. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Kibben is actively involved in many community and social causes – including rooting for her hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.
You can follow Katrina on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
By Katrina Kibben
RecruitingDaily contributing writer and editor. I am a storyteller. A tactical problem solver. A curious mind. A data nerd. With that unique filter, I work to craft messages that strategically improve the perceptions and experiences of our clients, the people they employ and the candidates they wish to attract. I methodically review and collect research and insights to offer solution-based recommendations that meet the one-off, and not so one-off, recruiting and employer branding problems of today's global employers.
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